There were two Canadian players looking to book their spots in the final at the St. Petersburg Open on Saturday.
Denis Shapovalov, the tournament’s second seed, came just short in his semi-final match, falling 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Russian Andrey Rublev, the third seed. This was the fourth career meeting between Shapovalov and Rublev, with the players now tied at two wins each after Saturday’s semi-final.
It was a fiery opening set between the two players, as both were very vocal on the court, letting out cries after nearly every point towards the end. After converting on a late break point opportunity, Shapovalov continued his smart shot making, dictating the pace for the majority of the points and taking the opening set.
But his opponent was not going down without a fight. In fact, Rublev came into to the tournament on a hot streak, having reached the quarter-finals at both the US Open and the French Open as well as reaching the final at the Hamburg European Open.
Contrary to his dominant performance in the opening set, the second seemed to slip away from Shapovalov as he was broken for the first time in the tournament after double faulting four times in the same service game. The young Canuck would eventually drop the set, another first for him in the tournament. The third set was much of the same, as Shapovalov experienced troubles on serve, went down a break midway through the set and was ultimately unable to get himself back in the match.
In his semi-final match against the no. 7 seed Borna Coric of Croatia, Milos Raonic (no. 6) controlled the opening set from start to finish, firing 16 winners, 7 aces and converting on two of his five break point opportunities. The Canadian was dominant all over the court, engaging in long rallies but also showcasing his delicate touch at the net. He needed only 37 minutes to take the opening set.
Just as the first, the second set was very one-sided, but this time it was Coric who came out flying, completely overwhelming Raonic. There was a clear shift in momentum as the no. 7 seed was now dictating play and pushing the Canadian around the court. For his part, Raonic seemed uncharacteristically unsettled, missing a number of shots and experiencing some difficulties on his typically powerful serve.
The deciding set was much more tightly disputed, as both players battled until the end for a spot in Sunday’s final. Despite a valiant effort, Raonic was broken early and was unable to mount a comeback, falling to Coric by a score of 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.